Cruise-Log METEOR: 5th of May by Mike Formolo
Logbuch Meteor-Expedition M76/1
5. May 2008; 25°30’S, 13°27’E
17:00 Uhr; sonnig; Lufttemp. 18,0°C; Wassertemp. 14,5°C; Wind NW, Stärke 3; Seegang 2 m
At the end of week 3, using the Meteor’s stabilizers and Global Positioning System, the Meteor finds herself stationary in 800m water depth as the MeBo descends to the ocean floor for another drilling attempt. Throughout the cruise, the MeBo attempts have been unfortunate victims of poor weather, high winds, and mechanical problems, but these factors now seem to be improving. These problems are to be expected when using such a technologically advanced piece of equipment in such harsh environments. Even with this bout of bad luck, the non-MeBo objectives of the cruise have been extremely successful. Storage space is rapidly becoming crammed with samples. Stacks of cores, sediment samples, and pore-water samples dominate every free corner in the chilled laboratories. Some of us are already trying to determine how we can continue to take samples as our supplies are beginning to run thin. The successful sampling has led to our coffers overflowing with sediment and is a “problem” we are happy to deal with. There are 11 days remaining and hopefully more samples to come, so we will have to stow these upcoming samples into any containers we can use – whether it is centrifuge tubes or aluminum foil, we will happily utilize anything we can find to get our samples back to the lab.
One thing that has become apparent, which I had forgotten from my previous experience in the Gulf of Mexico, is that the cruise can be likened to a marathon. Pace is important. It is easy to be overwhelmed with sampling and you can unexpectedly find yourself exhausted to levels you have rarely ever experienced. Everyone on the expedition will find themselves in this position at some point or another. Even when these levels of exhaustion have set in, it is amazing to observe the continued dedication to the work. For many of us there is a satisfaction that comes along with the fatigue brought on by endless hours of sampling and analyses, and it is a testament to the pleasure we receive from our work. It is a truly exceptional experience to work in the midst of an ocean sampling sediments that are not easily available to most people. But no matter how much we enjoy our work, no one can work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. We all need some time for rest and relaxation or in our case during this last week, time for a barbeque.
Last Thursday, May 1, the deck and general lab of the ship were transformed from muddy, stinky, sampling locations to a smorgasbord of food, meat, and libations as the crew and scientists celebrated the occurrence of two important German holidays: Maifeiertag and Christi Himmelfahrt. The evening was perfect for a BBQ as the seas and winds were calm. Once we finished the meal, an evening of stories and dancing followed, culminating in a water-fight involving a deck hose. The scientist with the measly squirt-gun found he couldn't compete with the power of the deck hose, and raised the white flag of surrender. The evening was full of laughs and entertainment, which made for a nice break from the exhausting and exhilarating pace of the work on board.
The next two days were spent using the Parasound system to map the sea-floor, another objective of the cruise. This occurred as we traveled back to previous sites to acquire more samples from the region affectionately referred to as the “mud-belt”. Following our second scientific meeting, it was apparent that we needed to return to the “mud-belt” sites to acquire more samples for experiments. One of the sample sites contained abundant large sulfur bacteria, including Beggiatoa and Thiomargarita. These bacteria are large enough to see without the aid of a microscope and were amazing to observe. We also found snails in these sediments, including some with bacteria growing on the outside of their shells, which I had never seen before. The relationships between the organisms in these environments are complex and connected, and living on the sea-floor can require special adaptations among them.
As week 3 concludes, we optimistically wait for a core from the MeBo as we finish processing samples. As the days pass and we approach the time when we will have to turn back in the direction of Walvis Bay, the weather outlook is good and we will continue sampling to the last possible second. We look forward to more hard but exciting work, more mud-stained clothes, inhaling more terrible smells from the cores, and more long hours in the cold room, because we know we will miss it all once this voyage ends.